US consumer confidence weakened in October as renewed concerns about inflation dented the near-term consumer outlook. This came after a slight improvement in consumer sentiment over the prior two months.
The Conference Board reported this week that its consumer confidence index dropped to 102.5 in October from 107.8 in September. Consumers had become more optimistic in the prior two months as rising gas prices cooled off slightly, providing hope for better financial conditions.
The research group’s expectations index – a measure of consumers’ six-month outlook for income, business and labor conditions – fell to 78.1 from 79.5 last month.
Normally, a reading below 80 for the expectations index is a level associated with recession, suggesting that fears of a sharp economic downturn have not abated.
Despite this pessimism, the pace of sales at US retailers was unchanged in September from August. Rising rents and food prices have not reduced demand for these essential items, but have chipped away at money Americans can spend on non-essential big-ticket items.
What does this mean for me?
New data revealed that inflation accelerated in September. The cost of housing and other necessities has intensified pressure on families, wiping out salary gains.
Inflationary pressures are expected to continue to be a drag on confidence and spending. The Fed has been on a program of aggressive interest rate hikes this year, with analysts expecting more increases before the year closes, including another likely 75-basis-point jump when the central bank meets next week.